Accidental Architect Drawn to World of Design

Liu Yin Sheng talks about his varied works and how they take him places

Issue: Oct 2010

Liu Yin Sheng
Four years into his stint with Aedas Asia, Liu Yin Sheng now heads the Chengdu branch of the Aedas Beijing office

Had Liu Yin Sheng had his way, the world of fashion would have gained an icon and the landscape of today’s cities would have been poorer. Growing up, this 39-year old General Manager of Aedas Beijing Ltd’s Chengdu branch had a talent for drawing. He even applied to study fashion design at ChangAn University but was summarily rejected. Instead, he was offered Architecture and the rest, as they say, is history.

Upon graduating in 1996, he joined the China Petroleum Design Institute, working in both their Beijing and Chengdu offices for six years before going to Singapore to obtain a Masters degree in Building Science from the National University of Singapore. Upon his return in 2006, he joined Aedas Asia, an award-winning, international architectural firm with 39 offices worldwide.

Aedas Beijing office
The Loft won several awards for its green design

Aedas Asia is especially involved in the railways of Asia. By 2008, it had designed 31 railway stations and six depots for 18 railway lines across Asia. Liu himself was instrumental in the designing of Singapore’s Bishan MRT Station in preparation for the Circle Line. He was also the architect for The Loft in Chengdu, a 26-tower luxury residential development that is a breakthrough in green designs for homes. Not a bad track record all in all for someone who did not pick architecture as a career to begin with.

INSIDE: Would you consider yourself an "accidental architect", given the fact that you had started out wanting to go into fashion design?

LIU: Since I was in primary school, I had studied art. I used to do pencil sketches and water colour paintings. When I applied to enter ChangAn University, I attached my pencil sketches with my application. The recruitment staff saw my work and thought that I was more suitable for architecture although my application was for a fashion design degree. Within my first year, I became fascinated with architecture because it combines art and engineering. I have since devoted myself to a career in architecture.

INSIDE: What made you join Aedas Asia?

LIU: After I graduated with a Masters from the National University of Singapore, I was looking for a job that allowed me to express my architectural creativity. I joined Aedas’ Shanghai office because it is one of the best architectural firms and I liked the open design environment there. I was very impressed by it.

I have since been given the opportunity to work on a variety of projects – residential, shopping malls, offices, hotels both in China and in Singapore.

INSIDE: Which has been your most challenging project?

LIU: The Bishan MRT Station was perhaps my most challenging project because it was my first project in Singapore. The working environment was very different from China. The style in Singapore is more global and sophisticated. On top of that, I was working in English when I am actually more used to Chinese.

Bishan MRT Station
The Bishan MRT Station re-designed by Liu and made into an interchange for the Circle Line, which opened in May 2009


The Loft in Chengdu
The Loft in Chengdu, designed by Liu, is a green residential development that offers open public and personal spaces for communal interaction


Liu’s home
Liu’s home marries modern minimalism with Victorian charm in the details

INSIDE: Aedas Asia believes in creating "environments which encourage the human spirit, while incorporating state-of-the-art technology". What is your design philosophy?

LIU: I believe in designing for people. I try to design user-friendly, comfortable spaces. I study the city, its culture and nature before I design for it. For example, Chengdu is a western city in China. It is famous for beautiful women and a relaxed lifestyle. The people like the outdoors and often play mahjong outdoors in their leisure. So when I design for Chengdu, I always consider the outdoor spaces in my projects.

The Loft in Chengdu, for example, incorporates the idea of “the yard”. The yard is a common element in traditional Chinese residences. It is associated with family and harmony because families gather at the yard to interact. To create a harmonious international community within The Loft, we tried to incorporate a yard in the different building groups within the development. The property is so vast, the yard helps to create pockets of space for intimate interaction.

In addition, The Loft is meant to appeal to a younger client base. We thus chose colours that convey the idea of vitality and dynamism to appeal to this younger generation.

INSIDE: How do different cities inspire you?

Different cities have their distinctive characters due to their different locations, weather and history. China has thousands of years of history, yet has developed so fast in the last 30 years. The mix of modernity and history is one key inspiration for me.

INSIDE: What is your personal space like?

LIU: I live in an apartment that sits along a river with my wife and three-year old son. I helped to design the interior. It’s got some Victorian influences in the design because my style is elegant and comfortable.

There is a yard in my estate and that is my favourite part of my house. On weekends, my son and I will take walks in the yard or play ball or I’d take him to watch the fish in the pond.

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